Friday, October 25, 2013

SPARROW (2008) - Johnnie To

Taking a cue from its nimble avian namesake, Sparrow finds To in light-hearted crime caper mode, a good fit for the genre-hopping director. A group of Hong Kong pickpockets ply their five-fingered trade with relative ease until the day a stray sparrow flies through the window of leader Kei (Simon Yam) bringing with it bad luck and a beautiful lady (Kelly Lin) with her own set of particular skills. Said beauty quickly goes about turning the tables and splintering the group's affections/allegiances, using them to her own ends. Namely, to extricate herself from the romantic servitude of a geriatric local crime boss, also with a history of spry hands.

Though Sparrow is not technically a musical, To films many of the pickpocketing scenes as if it were so. There's an upbeat, jazzy choreography to them all, especially the end "pickpocket showdown" in the pouring rain that seems to take its cues from Gene Kelly as much as Robert Bresson. It's a brilliant sequence, replete with spinning umbrellas and hidden, whisking razor blades, To proving you don't need a giant cache of guns to pull off a solid crime (or a solid crime film). A little cinematic dexterity, an airtight script, a decent rain slicker will do just as nicely.

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